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Opinion

Sideways: Bloomberg's billion-dollar US election bet

Wall Street leaders alarmed by the prospect of a populist anti-finance president such as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders were given some hope when Michael Bloomberg declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

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Michael Bloomberg is a dream candidate for executives who would like an alternative to Donald Trump without disruption to business as usual for corporate America.

Bloomberg started on Wall Street at Salomon Brothers, built his own data and media empire and was an efficient technocratic mayor of New York before a return to his eponymous firm that was widely assumed to be a temporary stop while he decided what to do next. 

Bloomberg launched his campaign with a barrage of TV ads, while his personal fortune of close to $60 billion will allow him to comfortably outspend any of his rivals if the candidacy develops momentum

But there is no guarantee that his efforts will resonate with Democratic primary voters, and both Sanders and Warren were quick to condemn Bloomberg as a billionaire who was trying to buy votes and circumvent grass-roots campaigning.

So financial industry leaders may be right to fear the prospect of a populist successor to Trump with a more aggressive approach to Wall Street than other Democratic presidents in the last half century.

Dilemma

A wealth tax of the type proposed by Warren and Sanders remains a distant prospect, and private equity managers have a long track record of successfully stalling changes that would affect their business model.




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